Searching for Ancestors Prior to Their Marriage

Census record for search for Winfield's parents for family tree

In genealogy, you want to work your way from what is known to what is unknown. In many cases, you will discover an ancestor is a spouse and had children before you find records for when they are children in their parent’s home.

The reason is you’ll need the clues records created during their married life to help you know you have the correct ancestor as you work your way back through time.

In the Research Over My Shoulder Series, I have the following question:

Complicated Genealogy Research Clue Web or Mind Map

A clue web helps me keep track of my questions, discoveries, and clues.

Who are Winfield Underwood’s parents?

  1. A death record suggests the parental names are Hiram and Eliza Gaddie

  2. A birth record suggests his parental names are Hiram and Nancy Gaddie

  3. The FamilySearch Family Tree had Winfield attached to Hiram and Eliza Jane Martin.

Winfield married Rhoda Kelley in Cooke County, Texas in 1885. I have evidence from a death record that Winfield was born in Taylor County, Kentucky in 1857. Census records indicated that his parents are also from Kentucky.

Since Winfield and Rhoda married in 1885, I want to find him in census records before that date. Unfortunately, this is not easy without trying nearly every search strategy hack known to man for the years 1870 and 1880.

I do find this potential search result for 1860

Winfield Underwood Search Result in 1860

Gwinfield Underwood who is about the right age, from Taylor, Kentucky, and has a father named Hyrum. These details align with the clue web facts I believe to be accurate at present. Could this be him?

There are enough content matches to warrant looking further at this result. The Gwinfield in Taylor County, Kentucky is the strongest reason. On this record, the mother’s likely name is Nancy, which supports the birth record that was attached to the Person Page by a previous researcher.

Census Record for Genealogy Research Process

Hyrum Underwood family for Taylor County, Kentucky in 1860

Can you see how the indexer might have thought that G Winfield was Gwinfield?

I can. Since the use of the G and Winfield and Underwood together is not a frequent occurrence in researching this individual, I can make the case that we might have the right family. But I still need more evidence.

The 1860 Census doesn’t specify relationships, but the arrangement of the names in the household does provide clues to how individuals are related. In this household, we find Hyrum Underwood, Nancy, and two children Gwinfield and Codelia. Also in the home are Hyram and Celia Underwood.

Based on the order of the ages and compared to the enumerator instructions for 1860, it’s highly likely that Hyrum and Nancy are husband and wife. There’s a strong chance that the children are Nancy’s, but it is possible that they are from a previous wife. Hyrum and Celia, because their last name is Underwood, are likely to be Hyrum’s parents.

Now, remember the relationship is likely but not proven at this point because the record does not clearly define the relationship, only suggests it. We also don’t know who the informant is so everything could be hogwash.

We need further evidence before we can determine if this family belongs to Winfield and indicates his parents, a sister, and grandparents.

Ultimately, if this is a match, then we’ve not only figured out the parents of Jamie’s great-grandfather but also pushed the family tree back another generation. Fingers crossed.

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Finding More Genealogy Clues in the Census Entry

Don’t stop here when looking at the census records. Scroll over to find out other details that might help you puzzle out your mysteries. In so doing, I discovered:

  1. Celia, the older woman, was born in Virginia

  2. Hyrum, the elder, was born in North Carolina

And the remaining household members were from ditto marks? What do the ditto marks mean? Kentucky.

Genealogy Research Mind Map for Hyrum Underwood research project

Clue web for Hyrum and Nancy Underwood based on the 1860 US Census record.

I can’t prove with great certainty that this is the family from the previous clue web. Therefore I created an additional clue web for this family. Notice all the clues I extracted from the 1860 census record. As I find more clues, I can add them to this web. Ultimately, if I can establish a stronger connection to link this G Winfield to the one I’ve already researched, then I can combine the webs.

Right now, I have found the census record that fits with the birth record previously found the Research Over My Shoulder series.

I haven’t definitively connected Winfield to his possible birthplace in Kentucky, so I need to do something. What is that? Find more records. Since I haven’t found the 1870 or 1880 census records easily, I’ll have to pivot and use a different search strategy than searching for Winfield directly.

I’ll have to cover that in a different post.

VIDEO: Finding Genealogy Records For Ancestors Before They Married

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